Last night, Larry Flynt's Hustler Club in Las Vegas celebrated St. Patrick's Day by dropping a wrestling ring in between the its stripping stages and inviting a group of "leprechaun wrestlers" to make it a proper three ring circus.
I found out about this from my sister Marlena, who in addition to being an avid skydiver and occasional fire spinner, is also a pole dancer, a sword swallower, and general real-life super hero. Marlena was originally supposed to open the night with her sword-swallowing act, but wound up coming to the event just to hang out with me because she'd spent too long jumping out of planes earlier that day to properly prepare to swallow artillery.
As we waited to be admitted to Hustler, a grumpy-looking woman wearing a whimsical green hat checked in a group of middle-aged men in polo shirts ahead of us. One of the polo shirts looked my sister and I up and down and indicted with a presumptuous hello ladies that he'd wrongly assumed we were there to socialize with him. Marlena and I stared right through him to the giant leprechaun wrestling poster behind him, where images of the Half Pint Brawlers, tonight's entertainment, reminded us that this shit was actually about to go down.
The inside of the strip club had that half-empty, half-enthused Tuesday night feeling. We were seated at a booth, where we were given a bottle of vodka a straight-on view of a dancer with one of those hypnotic flapping asses that is so "on trend" right now. A handful of the men in the club stared, dead-eyed, at her.
Performing at places like these, my sister said, "is really a big social experiment… This is how men treat me whether I'm in here or not, so I may as well capitalize on it." Onstage, a different dancer scaled the pole at least 20 feet up, flipped herself upside down, and did the splits to no applause or fanfare. "Sometimes I think, I'm going to work a few nights in a row and make a bunch of money," my sister went on. "Then I work one night, I get my money, and I'm like, OK, I'm out. It's exhausting."
We sat there for a while until, finally, we reached the pot of gold at the end of this dimly lit rainbow: It was time for the wrestling match. Puppet the Psycho Dwarf, the Half Pint Brawlers' leader, referee, announcer, and judge, entered the ring and pumped up the audience for the impending show. "If you fuck like you clap, no wonder you're here in a titty bar," was the sort of banter he threw out at the crowd.
Puppet brought out the match's two leprechaun contenders: Little Kato, who entered the ring in a shirt that said "Kiss My Irish Ass" and green silk shorts that had a fake butt sewn onto them. Little Kato leaped onto the ropes and used his plastic ass to taunt his long-haired opponent, Beautiful Bobby Dean, who entered the ring with a scowl that made it clear he was the "bad guy."
Kato and Bobby began tossing each other across the ring. They flew with an exhilarating velocity and landed perfectly choreographed punches, blocks, and kicks. My sister and I rushed the stage with a few of her friends, screaming with glee as the little athletes beat each other to smithereens mere feet away. Puppet bellowed into the mic, "Give it up for three midgets!"
Reactions to the spectacle were mixed. A bachelorette party on the other side of the ring smiled so politely that they were being rude. A man came up beside me and took it beside himself to rest his hand familiarly around my shoulder before telling me to move. I told him not to touch me. He, again, told me to move. I stayed where I was and told him not to fucking touch me, wondering if this would finally be the night I threw a drink in someone's face.
It is exhausting.
Kato scaled the bottom rope and his legs dangled without touching the mat. "Look at his little legs dangling on the rope!" implored Puppet. The fighters bursted out of the confines of the ring and continued their deft and hard-hitting dance at my feet. I high-fived Kato and egged him on before watching Bobby smash an old-timey trash can lid over his head.
"And now, for your long-legged pleasure," announced Puppet, "throw your bills up here, and we'll staple them all over the midgets!" As the stage was flooded with bills, Kato and Bobby took turns allowing their flesh to be mauled with office supplies and cash money.
With the bills still stapled to their foreheads, both Bobby and Kato both proceeded to scale the ropes and leap off of them onto each other. In one last tour de force vault, Bobby was airborne for what seemed like a full second before landing on Kato's prone body. It was not unlike the slow-motion action shots common in Shark Week videos.
Beautiful Bobby ultimately won the match with a knockout, but Kato was able to win back his glory in a second match, about an hour later, wherein Bobby successfully took down a much larger man in the audience who was wearing a giant green felt top hat. The move was so seamless, I assumed the man was a plant who had perfectly nailed the costume of "douchebag in Vegas on St. Patrick's Day."
Later, in the shamelessly pink dressing room in the Hustler basement, I sat down with all three Half Pint Brawlers and learned that the man was not a plant but rather an unsuspecting drunkard who had been successfully felled by Bobby.
"But how?" I asked.
"We're professionals," explained Puppet, as Bobby counted stacks of cash beside him. "We've been touring for 20 years."
"Our main goal, our job in life, is to be midget wrestlers," he went on. "Yeah. This is it."
"It's only getting better," added Kato, who had, by now, wiped the blood off of his forehead. When I asked about their training schedule, Puppet told me that at the beginning of their careers, he and the other wrestlers were training "almost every day. At least a couple hours a day. Sometimes twice a day for two hours at a time." Now, he says, "we only train if we add something new to our routine. We gotta try to save all those bumps on our body."
When I asked if they talked much to the strippers they sometimes work with, Puppet responded with an immediate and enthusiastic, "Fuck yeah. They're people too. It's all about working together and making this thing happen and making a magical night."
"You always gotta keep going, doing something new. Shocking people."
"It's entertainment," added Bobby, who was still counting his money.
I made my way back upstairs, through the stumbling adults dressed in felt elf costumes, and found my sister, who nonchalantly told me that the next day she was going to jump out of a helicopter while wearing a Wonder Woman costume.
"What? For who?"
My sister stared at me for a second before responding with the obvious: "For myself."
In the words of Puppet the Psycho Dwarf, "That's what America's all about, right?"
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